Business Owners Take Note: Self-Publishing Isn't Just for Authors Any More

A few years ago the traditional publishing empire collapsed and authors turned to the new tech tools to create, format, and sell their books. Today there’s no stigma to self-publishing a book, as long as it’s done professionally. And though authors of novels, memoir, children’s books, and how-to books have fully embraced self-publishing, it’s been largely neglected by professionals in business, finance, real estate, restaurants, heath and fitness, and political pundits who want to spread their ideas. Smart businesses have started to use the capabilities of online pubishing as part of their “content marketing” stragegy. That is, offering free ebooks and apps to online customers, and even print books and booklets to customers who come into the store. Here are some low-cost and easy-to-use tools that can help you get into the online publishing game, the fastest growing business in the USA today.

Smashwords: Mark Coker and his wife spent three years trying to publish a really good book in the traditional manner. When Coker, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, found that the industry was broken, he set about creating a new publishing system. Smashwords is a free online tool that converts your Word document into all the different ebook formats. The company also distributes your book to most of the online ebook retailers and app stores, and even to libraries. You get 85% of net sales. You also get the files to upload to your own website or blog.

Aerbook Maker: Founder Ron Martinez manifested his vision for an easy-to-use browser-based online tool that makes beautiful color picture ebooks and apps in a tool called Aerbook Maker. It’s kind of like creating a Powerpoint or Keynote presentation. Just add pictures and text boxes into pages, play with colors and fonts and, voila! You’ve got a picture book. booklet or app. Pay a small fee to export the various formats and distribute them to online retailers and app stores, or offer them free to your website visitors. This is a great tool for visually-based businesses like real estate, food service and health and fitness.

Leanpub: Created to deliver technical manuals to customers quickly, before they were perfect, Leanpub offers “iterative” publishing. Create your book in a text file, upload it to a DropBox folder, and make your book available to beta readers for free or for sale. Edit it and upload it again, and send an email letting them know a new version is available. This is not only great for tech and how-to book writers, but for travelogues or any book that you want to make available before it’s completed.

Pressbooks: Pressbooks was built on WordPress and the blog-like interface allows you to build plain text books or beautiful books using CSS templates. And this is really exciting: If you have a WordPress blog, you can import it into Pressbooks and instantly create a first draft. Add a cover and table of contents, and you have a book. You can export it to an ebook format or even to PDF for print for delivery via your website, or upload it to the online stores.

These are just a few of the low-cost and easy-to-use tools that Self-Publishing Boot Camp recommends to anyone who wants to create ebooks and print books or booklets today. All of these options allow you to offer your book for sale or for free. Smart businesses are starting to offer free ebooks from their websites to describe their product or their vision to potential customers. Many offer how-to guides, recipes, financial advice, and other freebies as part of a content marketing strategy. Self-publishing isn’t just for authors any more. It’s a very smart move for any business.

Carla King is co-founder of Self-Publishing Boot Camp, a California-based program of educational books and workshops for authors and business. Her next workshop is on November 2nd in Sacramento.